Right to Food

updated April 2017

“The fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger” is established in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the branch of international law inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A rights-based approach to food security imposes obligations on national governments to establish non-discriminatory and non-political laws to ensure that their populations have access to adequate food. Practical measures to deliver these obligations are set out in the Voluntary Guidelines on the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security, formally approved by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2004.

However, the global hunger count of 795 million demonstrates that the gap between intent and implementation remains too wide. Campaigners continue to encourage the poor to view food security as a right for which their rulers are accountable, rather than a gift of charity.

Politicians are themselves aware that a citizen who is unable to feed the household may be provoked into direct action. This sensitivity was demonstrated when the FAO Cereal Price Index doubled in the year to April 2008. Food riots in 23 developing countries prompted a global crisis, culminating in the organisation of the 2009 World Summit on Food Security.

The FAO reports that over 100 countries include either a direct or implied reference to the right to food in their constitutions. Poverty reduction in many Latin American countries, led by Brazil, has been attributed to political commitment to the right to food. India’s Right to Food Act, passed into law in 2013, represents a significant milestone in the drive towards eradication of global hunger.

The culmination of these positive trends was embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, approved at the UN General Assembly in 2015. In the preamble, world leaders stated that: “we resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere.”


Right to Food as policy
explained by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Food Riots and Food Rights A research project explores how failure to respect the right to food is one aspect of global inequality that provokes riots.
from Institute of Development Studies

India’s 2013 legislation demonstrates how the right to food can be put into practice, from Al Jazeera

more Food Security briefings
Food Security Definition and Global Divide
Sustainable Development Goal for Food
Causes of Food Insecurity
Governance of Food Security
Solutions to Food Insecurity
Source material and useful links